Problems getting your deposit back
Your landlord is entitled to keep money from your deposit to cover breakages, damage and unpaid bills. But sometimes landlords retain deposits unfairly. This section explains what you can do in this situation.
Tenancies that have ended
This page applies to you if your tenancy ended before 13 November 2012.
This page applies to you if:
- you paid a deposit before 7 March 2011, and
- your tenancy isn't renewed between 2 October 2012 and 2 April 2013.
If your tenancy has been renewed or you paid a deposit on or after 7 March 2011 please check our page on Protecting your deposit.
When can my landlord keep my deposit?
Your landlord is entitled to keep money from your deposit if:
- you have broken or damaged anything in the property (allowing for fair wear and tear)
- you haven't looked after the property properly and your landlord must pay for it to be cleaned (again, allowing for fair wear and tear)
- anything on the inventory is missing
- you have left any unpaid bills
- you have rent arrears.
Has my landlord kept my deposit unfairly?
Your landlord may have kept your deposit unfairly if, for example, they:
- have considered fair wear and tear to the property to be damage
- are claiming you have damaged the property or left it in a bad state when you haven't
- haven't given you any reason for not returning your deposit.
Reasons for keeping your deposit
Your landlord or letting agent should give you reasons for refusing or delaying the return of your deposit. They should give you a breakdown of any deductions, including:
- details of any unpaid bills they say you owe
- the costs of repairing or replacing any specific items they say you have damaged or removed
- the costs of any cleaning that has needed to be done.
How to negotiate the return of your deposit
If you're unhappy with the way your landlord or letting agent has dealt with your deposit you can:
- request a breakdown of deductions - download a sample letter or create a letter online here, you should ask for any receipts if you think any charges for repairs or cleaning are too high
- write to dispute the deductions - if you disagree you can write to your landlord using our downloadable letter with the amounts that you think should be returned, include any photos you have to back up your case
- write back with a deadline - if they don't get back to you write back and give them a deadline, e.g. two weeks, explaining that if you don't get your deposit back you'll be forced to go to the small claims court.
It's very important that you keep copies of every letter you send to your landlord.
What if a letting agency won't return my deposit?
If you rented through a letting agency and they hold your deposit unreasonably you can:
- contact your landlord directly - legally, your letting agent must give you your landlord's name and address within 21 days if you request it in writing
- go to the small claims court - if you still don't get your deposit back you can lodge a claim in the small claims court
- make a complaint - if your letting agent is registered with an organisation such as the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA) or the National Approved Lettings Scheme (NALS), or is signed up to a landlord accreditation scheme, you can contact the organisation to report the problem.
- inform Trading Standards - if the letting agent dissappears or stops trading with your money you should report this to Trading Standards and contact your landlord.
What if negotiation doesn't work?
If your deposit is less than £3,000, you can take action against your landlord in the small claims court. This is quite straightforward. Landlords and agents sometimes pay up as soon as they receive court papers, so you may not have to go to court. Get advice from Citizens Advice if you're considering taking this step. You can find out more about using the small claims procedure here.
Complaining to the council
If your landlord withholds your deposit unfairly, you should also complain to your local council, who should hold details of your landlord on their landlord register.